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Sequential Memory: Definition, Importance, Overcoming Deficits

Memory is the process by which knowledge is encoded, stored, and later retrieved. Although the word memory may conjure up an image of a singular, “all-or-none” process, it is clear that there are actually many kinds of memory, each of which may be somewhat independent of the others.

Sequential memory requires items to be recalled in a specific order. In saying the days of the week, months of the year, a telephone number, the alphabet, and in counting, the order of the elements is of paramount importance. Visual sequential memory is the ability to remember things seen in sequence, while auditory sequential memory is the ability to remember things heard in sequence.

Consequences of poor sequential memory

Many students with reading difficulties have trouble with sequencing and poor sequential memory, which naturally affects their ability to read and spell correctly. After all, every word consists of letters in a specific sequence. To read one has to perceive the letters in sequence, and also remember what word is represented by that sequence of letters. By simply changing the sequence of the letters in name it can become mean or amen.

When reading, students with poor sequential memory may put letters in the wrong order, reading felt as left, act as cat, reserve as reverse, expect as except. They may put syllables in the wrong order, reading animal as ‘aminal’, hospital as ‘hopsital’, enemy as ‘emeny’. They may put words in the wrong order, reading are there for there are. They may write letters in the wrong order, spelling Simon as ‘Siomn’, time as ‘tiem’, child as ‘chidl’. They may omit letters, i.e. reading or writing cat for cart, wet for went, sing for string. They may be unable to repeat longer words orally without getting the syllables in the wrong order, for example, words like preliminary and statistical.

Poor readers have poor sequential memory

Guthrie and his team investigated relationships between visual sequential memory and reading in 81 typical and 43 disabled readers. The children had normal intelligence and a mean reading grade of 2.5. The mean chronological age of the typical readers was 8.5 years, and the mean of the reading disabled 10.3. Partial correlations between three tests of visual sequential memory and three tests of reading were computed. Significant, positive associations were identified between visual sequential memory and paragraph comprehension, oral reading, and word recognition.

A study, published in the Journal of General Psychology, compared 33 dyslexic and 33 control eight to 12-year-old children and found the dyslexic children to be inferior to controls on tasks involving visual sequential memory and auditory sequential memory.

Another study, published in the Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, compared 24 readers with auditory dyslexia and 21 with visual dyslexia to 90 control group participants and revealed auditory sequential memory impairments for both types of readers with dyslexia, and multiple strengths for good readers.

Improved sequential memory can help improve your child’s reading and spelling skills. To do this effectively, both auditory sequential and visual sequential memory skills need to be developed.

How Edublox can help

Edublox specializes in educational interventions that make children smarter, help them learn and read faster, and do math with ease. Our programs enable learners to overcome reading difficulties and other learning obstacles, assisting them to become life-long learners and empowering them to realize their highest educational goals.

Edublox is founded on pedagogical research and 30+ years of experience demonstrating that weak underlying cognitive skills account for the majority of learning difficulties. Underlying cognitive skills include sequential memory. Specific cognitive exercises can strengthen these weaknesses leading to increased performance in reading, spelling, writing, math, and learning.

In a study, 64 2nd grade students at an inner-city school were divided into three groups: group 1 consisted of 22 students who did Edublox Online Tutor (Development Tutor) for 28 hours over a period of three weeks, while group 2 consisted of 21 who played computer games, and the rest continued with school. Results show that the visual and auditory sequential memory skills of the Edublox group (blue line) improved significantly:

Visual sequential memory:

Auditory sequential memory:

Edublox Online Tutor has been optimized for children aged between 7 and 13, is suitable for the gifted and less gifted, and can be used at home and in school. The program is effective in alleviating a variety of symptoms associated with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.

Edublox also offers live online tutoring to students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and other learning difficulties. Our students are based in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. Book a free consultation to discuss your child’s learning needs.


Guthrie JT,  Goldberg, HK. “Visual sequential memory in reading disability.” Journal of Learning DisabilitiesJanuary 1972.

Hornsby B. Overcoming Dyslexia. Juta and Company Ltd. 1984.

Howes NL, Bigler ED, Lawson JS, Burlingame GM. “Reading disability subtypes and the test of memory and learning.” Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology. April 1999 14(3): 317–339.

Stanley G, Kaplan I, Poole C. “Cognitive and nonverbal perceptual processing in dyslexics.” Journal of General Psychology. 1975, 93(1): 67-72.